FBI investigates Unabomber for Tylenol package tamperings, poisonings

Linda Casey

January 29, 2014

4 Min Read
FBI investigates Unabomber for Tylenol package tamperings, poisonings


In 1982, the US FDA issued regulations requiring tamper-resistant packaging for over-the-counter drugs as the result of seven consumers dying from Tylenol capsules that intentionally contaminated with cyanide. While the Tylenol poisonings might have faded from the spotlight for the general public, it has forever changed the way products, especially pharmaceuticals, are packaged. According to an article in today's The Sacramento Bee, the tragedy also appears to have remained fresh in the minds of U.S. FBI. Just yesterday, the agency asked for new evidence-DNA from Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.




Full article from the The Sacramento Bee is below:


FBI confirms seeking Kaczynski's DNA in Tylenol probe

By Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


May 20--Nearly three decades after the Chicago Tylenol poisonings changed how American products are packaged, the FBI confirmed Thursday it is taking a new look at the unsolved case and whether it was the work of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.

But a Sacramento attorney for Kaczynski questioned Thursday whether the announced probe was merely a ploy to boost attention for the government's ongoing auction of the Unabomber's possessions.

"I find it highly suspicious that the FBI has requested a sample of Mr. Kaczynski's DNA at the same time the government is attempting to generate publicity in order to maximize proceeds from the auction of his personal property," said John Balazs, a member of Kaczynski's criminal defense team who said he will represent him in the Tylenol probe.

"I am persuaded that Mr. Kaczynski had absolutely no involvement in any aspect of the events in Chicago in 1982," he added.

In a statement issued Thursday after The Bee first reported the development, the FBI's Chicago division said, "As part of our re-examination of the evidence developed in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, we have attempted to secure DNA samples from numerous individuals, including Ted Kaczynski. To date, Mr. Kaczynski has declined to voluntarily provide this sample.

"The investigation into the Tylenol murders remains ongoing. No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed."

Special Agent Royden "Ross" Rice said by telephone from the Chicago FBI office that that other suspects are being looked at as well, but would not elaborate.

Kaczynski has been in custody since 1996, when he was arrested at his remote one-room cabin in the Montana woods, and Rice said the FBI has had samples of Kaczynski's DNA for some time. He added, however, that agents are seeking new samples because of advancements in testing and processing.
"DNA technology has grown in exponential terms, and to do a conclusive test, we need new samples," he said.

Kaczynski was approached three weeks ago at the "supermax" prison in Florence, Colo., where he is serving a life sentence for his 18-year bombing campaign that killed three people -- two in Sacramento -- and injured 23.

Prison officials told him the FBI wanted the sample, but Kaczynski said in papers filed last week in federal court in Sacramento that he told them he wanted time to think about it.

Kaczynski said in the handwritten court papers that he has never possessed potassium cyanide, which was found in the Extra Strength Tylenol capsules that killed seven in the fall of 1982.

The case marked the first mass recall of a product because of tampering. Its maker, Johnson & Johnson, won high marks for its handling of the crisis.

It also spawned the now-ubiquitous tamper-proof packaging for food and drugs.

Kaczynski had never been linked by law enforcement to the case, and he told prison officials last month that he did not want to provide his DNA voluntarily unless authorities decided to refrain from auctioning off materials of his that would pinpoint his whereabouts in 1982.

Federal officials took no action on that request, and a government online auction of his belongings began Wednesday to raise money for $15 million in restitution he was ordered to pay his victims.

Kaczynski said he was told the FBI may seek a court order for fresh DNA samples.

The auction, scheduled to go until at least June 2, includes personal belongings found in his cabin. The most popular items so far are his hoodie and sunglasses, a package offering with a bid of more than $18,000 Thursday, and his handwritten manifesto, which had a bid of more than $15,000. All items started at $25.

The 10-by-12-foot plywood cabin is not among the materials up for auction. It remains in FBI custody and is currently on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.



Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like